New radical plan for smaller towns in South Africa

A number of  development corridors and ‘anchor towns’ in South Africa have been earmarked by the government as areas for potential growth, with plans to support and fund them under a new draft spatial development plan.

The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development this week published a notice of the Draft National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF) in terms of Section 13(4) of the Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act, 2013 (Act No. 16 of 2013) for public comment.

The NSDF, among other things, aims to address historical spatial imbalances in development; and has identified a number of ways to change the country’s landscape for inclusive growth.

According to United Nations-estimates, “…71.3% of the South African population will live in urban areas by 2030, reaching nearly 80% by 2050.”

Given the presence of a young, educated, vocal and demanding urban electorate of around 65 million people by 2050, making good on the promise of a better life for all, will be a major concern for government, the department said.

Our three urban regions (Gauteng, Western Cape and eThekwini) will experience the largest increases in population – this being from natural growth, as well as in-migration from South Africa, SADC and further afield.

Significant movement will also take place from villages and small towns to larger, better connected towns located on major transport routes where provision of better and more reliable basic services, education, healthcare and policing are, and will remain, important drivers of migration.

“However, while small towns and dense rural settlements are not expected to see a large population growth, they are also not expected to see a significant population decline in either the medium-scale or high-growth scenarios for population growth in South Africa. As such, both large urban regions and rural areas will require targeted and appropriate government focus and attention.”

This will especially be the case in large urban regions, where these large populations will place huge demands on already over-burdened, collapsing and ageing municipal infrastructure, the department said.

It further noted that more than 17 million people are currently estimated to be living in rural settlements across dense and sparsely populated regions – mainly in the former Bantustans. Most of these people live in conditions of severe poverty and vulnerability.

The spatial development plan would focus on strengthening areas along major roads and railway lines, and uplift ‘anchor towns’ while the coastal corridor from Richards Bay, through to Cape Town, will also receive attention.

“Settlement development, both in urban and rural South Africa, must be undertaken in such a way that it (1) increases development density, (2) reduces urban sprawl, (3) prevents the unsustainable use of productive land, and (4) optimises investment in infrastructure networks,” the department said.

Importantly, the development plan would see the consolidation of urbanisation in compact, productive, sustainable, inclusive and well-governed urban core regions including:

  • Gauteng Urban Region;
  • eThekwini Urban Region; and
  • Cape Town Urban Region.

The government would prioritise infrastructure maintenance to mitigate against the expected impact of natural and climate change-related hazards on large numbers of people, especially the poor and most vulnerable members of society, and avoid repetitive infrastructure-repair costs, the document said.

National Spatial Development Corridors are large stretches of densely-populated human settlements and intense economic activity along/onroads and/or railway lines.

“The dense human settlements, the road/railway links and the intensive economic activities mutually support each other in a synergistic way. While such corridors often develop organically over long periods of time, they can be supported and strengthened, and their development fast-tracked though well-considered and targeted State interventions,” the department said.

Interventions of this nature typically entail (1) the strengthening of the economy or the housing market in cities and towns in the corridor, (2) the construction of new, or the expansion and/or upgrading of existing road and railway links in the corridor and/or (3) the provision of targeted incentives to support denser, more concentrated development in corridors with more sprawling settlement patterns.


Under stress

Government would also look to consolidate and direct the rapid population growth in the eastern half of the country to national urban nodes, clusters and corridors by creating (1) quality human settlements, and (2) centres of human capital excellence, innovation, trade, inclusive green economies and regional enterprises, and in the process reaping the urban dividend.

Within distressed and sparsely populated areas and areas that are becoming increasingly more arid, consolidate settlement growth in (1) existing large urban nodes, and (2) emerging and fast-growing urban nodes.

In addition to strengthening and consolidating expected population growth in range of urban regions, and existing cities and intermediary cities, the government would proactively support the development and emergence of a number of new cities in identified densely populated and high potential transformation corridors.

The following existing urban nodes would be strengthened:

  • Mbombela,
  • Richards Bay
  • Buffalo City
  • Mangaung

It would also provide support for urban nodes under stress, including Kimberley and Rustenburg, and support the emergence of new cities in Mthatha, Hazyview, Tzaneen and Lephalale.


Anchor towns

The government would also prioritise and strengthen strategically located regional development anchor towns in productive rural regions and priority national development, trade and transport corridors to provide (1) a range of services within the specific towns/cities and surrounding network of settlements and productive rural regions.

The government would support and strengthen strategically located regional development anchors through (1) targeted settlement planning and development, (2) higher-order social infrastructure provision, and (3) focused support for small and medium-sized enterprise development, industrialisation and economic diversification.

It would also clearly identify the role of specific settlements as gateways and interchanges on the regional public transportation network, and incorporate these as such into the planning of functional rural regions.

It would strengthen and consolidate existing regional development anchor towns on  strategic routes including Harrismith, Estcourt and Clanwilliam; and bigger nodes in denser regions like Phalaborwa, George and Mossel Bay.

Nodes like Upington and Kuruman in arid, environmentally vulnerable regions would also receive management support, while nodes on strategic national routes likeBeaufort West and Vryburg; and in smaller nodes in sparsely populated regions like Springbok and Calvinia that serve a large hinterland, will also receive national attention.

The plan would also look to create new towns or transform exisiting ones into regional development anchors including: Giyani, Thohoyandou, Bushbuckridge, Mahikeng, Kuruman, Jozini, Ulundi, Kokstad and Butterworth.


Rural centres

Under the new plan, a National network of rural service centres will also be created – “where people in rural areas and settlements can optimally be provided with core municipal services, social and government services, and where rural logistics and support can be provided to optimally support rural development”.

“Towns that act as border and trade posts need special attention. In arid areas and areas experiencing a decline in population, settlements must be consolidated and maintenance prioritised in such core towns. In dense rural settlement regions, consolidation within nodal centres and rural design is required,” the department said.

Towns and border and trade posts would include Manguzi, Komatipoort, Ladybrand and Kamaqhekeza. The government would support service centres in stressed regions like Victoria West, Carnarvon, Groblershoop and Koffiefontein.

The plan would also see the consolidation and provision of basic services to the local population in a network of small towns and settlements including Modjadjiskloof, Maclear, Marblehall and Paul Pietersburg. Towns including Alldays, Clarens, Maluti and Rhodes, would also rrecieve support, along with towns in stressed regions that are experiencing a decline in population, like Reivilo, Sannieshof, and Pofadder.


Coastal Corridors

The Coastal Growth and Development Corridor along the eastern and south coasts (N2) is supported as an area of strong interconnection between high-value rural resource production, ecological resource regions, popular tourist destinations, comfortable climatic zones and urban nodes, the report said.

“This corridor also provides opportunities for the consolidation of existing cities and the development of ‘new’ cities supported by well-developed multi-modal connectivity infrastructure.”

The development plan would see the strengthening and consolidation of existing corridors: Port Shepstone to Richards Bay, and the Garden Route (Mossel Bay to Nelson Mandela Bay).

The government would also develop new transformation corridors, namely:

  • the Eastern Coastal transformation corridor – Nelson Mandela Bay via Mthatha to Port Shepstone;
  • the Eastern Escarpment transformation corridor: Mbombela to Thohoyandou; and
  • the North-Western transformation corridor: Mahikeng via Vryburg and Taung to (1) Kuruman and Postmasburg and (2) SolPlaatje.

You can view the full report below:

National Spacial Development Framework by BusinessTech on Scribd


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New radical plan for smaller towns in South Africa